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Wingham, Ont. loses its 'biggest star' as Alice Munro passes at 92

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The sign at the edge of town proudly declares Wingham as the birthplace of Alice Munro, one of the country’s most revered storytellers.

“It’s a sad day. We’ve lost her. Wingham has lost her. Really, she put Wingham on the map. She’s actually our biggest star,” said Munro’s friend and fan Verna Steffler.

Munro passed away at her home in Port Hope at the age of 92. However, her journey towards international literary stardom began in the small town of Wingham, in Huron County.

Munro was born in Lower Town Wingham on July 10, 1931. She went to elementary and high school in Wingham before heading off to London’s Western University, where she wrote her first set of stories at the tender age of 19.

She’d end up writing 14 short story collections, revolutionizing the art form. Her penultimate success came in 2013 where she became the only Canadian to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Sign at edge of Wingham declaring the community the birthplace of Alice Munro, seen on May 14, 2024. (Scott Miller/CTV News London)

“She been very proud of coming from Wingham, and so many of her stories, you can tell what buildings she’s talking about, you recognize them in Wingham or in the area,” said Steffler.

Steffler, who ended up being good friends with Munro, came up with the idea for the Alice Munro Literary Garden in 2002. An unveiling the shy Munro, who also lived in nearby Clinton for many years, reluctantly attended in person.

“She (Alice Munro) had Margaret Atwood here one day, and she deliberately brought Margaret to Wingham to show her the garden. She playfully gloated, ‘See Margaret, I’ve got a garden,’” said Steffler.

Alice Munro Literary Garden, seen on May 14, 2024. (Scott Miller/CTV News London)

At Wingham’s library that bears Munro’s name, it’s a sombre day as they prepare for the upcoming Alice Munro Festival of the Short Story that’s brought visitors to town every summer since 2001.

“We’ve actually had someone from Germany. I think that was the farthest visitor,” said Alice Munro Public Library Branch Manager Trina Huffman.

Huffman said it’s more important now than ever that Wingham’s library honours Munro’s literary legacy.

“She would come into the branch sometimes. Very modestly and quietly. She’d look around, and give her thanks. I really enjoyed seeing her and her lovely smile, and we’ll miss that,” said Huffman.

Alice Munro display at the Alice Munro Public Library in Wingham, seen on May 14, 2024. (Scott Miller/CTV News London)

North Huron Reeve Paul Heffer released the following statement regarding Munro’s passing.

It, in part, says, “Alice was highly regarded in her hometown of Wingham and has had an immense impact on our community. Her deep roots in our Township are woven into the fabric of North Huron. On behalf of our community, I would like to extend sincere condolences to Alice Munro’s family, loved ones, and friends. Today in North Huron, our community is mourning together along with the rest of the world. The Township of North Huron will fly its flags at half-mast in an act of honour and respect, expressing a collective sense of the sorrow shared by all.”

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